Smug Jerkface Stacey Campfield Might Go To Libel Jail After All
Oh, golly, outgoing WonketteLegislative Shitmuffin of 2013 Stacey Campfield. You are not having a good past couple months, are you? First you lost your primary election by a whopping THIRTY-NINE POINTS -- seriously, what incumbent Tennessee Republican loses a primary? -- and now, having to face a future where you can no longer introduce petty legislation to harass gay kids or cut food assistance for poors if their kids don't do well in school, you're going to have to get by in the Private Sector, where... aw, who are we kidding? You're in Tennessee. You'll be fine, you asshole. But at least you may have to actually have to face some consequences for just cold lying about a political opponent. We are so pleased with this development that we'll even drop this annoying second-person pretense.
Way back in April 2013, state Sen. Campfield lucked out when a court threw out a libel lawsuit brought against him by Tennessee House candidate Roger Byrge, a Democrat whom Campfield had out and out made shit up about. On his blog, Campfield claimed that Byrge had multiple drug arrests, and that the mug shots in the cases were "gold." Except Campfield was lying -- the arrest record that Campfield was talking about was actually that of Byrge's son.
Campfield said that he'd gotten a tip about the drug arrests from fellow Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada, and since he genuinely believed and wanted it to be true, he couldn't be accused of libel. Except that even before he ran the blog post, a former Republican state representative told him that, no, Casada was wrong and the arrest records were not Byrge's. Campfield went ahead and ran the story anyway, because he preferred to believe whatever made Byrge look bad, and there was an election to be won. Somehow, the judge in the case initially sided with Campfield, because politics ain't beanbag or something:
“It is a dog-eat-dog world out there, and this stuff happens,” Circuit Judge John McAfee said ...
“Sometimes you just get beat, and that’s just the plain simple truth of the matter,” he said. He added: “Politics are politics, and it’s a big boys and big girls game. That’s just the way it is.”
That perfectly lucid explanation -- it can't be libel even if you knowingly lie, because politics -- was at the heart of yesterday's reinstatement of Byrge's lawsuit by the state Court of Appeals:
"Politics may be a rough and tumble endeavor, but, contrary to the vintage Cole Porter song, 'anything goes' will not suffice when it comes to publishing factual falsehoods about political rivals," Judge D. Michael Swiney wrote in the opinion. "A public figure, even a politician, is neither totally immune from nor totally unprotected by the law of defamation."
The lawsuit can still go ahead, Swiney said, because Campfield knew that the claim about Byrge was unproven -- Casada had said that the caucus "may have" information about Byrge, but made it clear that it wasn't proven. Campfield rushed to put it on his blog with no attempt to verify it, because that is the sort of asshole Stacey Campfield is (just to be clear, we're elaborating on Judge Swiney's remarks there):
"Reasonable minds could consider it at least reckless to publish information tending to tarnish someone's reputation on the basis of 'may have,'" Swiney wrote, adding that Campfield made no attempt to verify what he had published.
Poor Stacey Campfield -- he may actually have to do some of that "personal responsibility" stuff that he's always going on about, which may prove uncomfortably raw and new.
[KNOX via Wonkette Operative "LZ"]
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